By David Fianko-Okyere
I write with the mindset to shift the focus of our universities and secondary students from the use of violent means to press home their demands, to, instead, use the laid down regulations of their schools to resolve any issue of concern to them.
Media reportage in recent times has exposed some students of our universities and secondary schools using unapproved means such as violent demonstrations in their engagements with their school authorities
For any students, especially university graduates, to set aside the rules and regulations and measures to seek redress through the practice of an unhelpful and uncivilised approach of violence to be heard must be condemned outright with no apology.
Sadly, I’m forced to cite the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST in Kumasi which has been in the media for the past one month, simply by an act of defiance which I believe shouldn’t have come from that level of the educational ladder.
I am told that the major reason for the students’ rampage, instead of a peaceful demonstration, was a decision by the school council, led by Prof Vice Chancellor, to convert the all-male hall to a mixed hall.
Some also attribute the conflict to the actions of the school security officials’ arbitrary detention of some alleged bad students on campus cells.
My question is, as students of higher learning, was that the best approach to resolve a conflict that had arisen out of tradition. I think the student’s leadership is fully aware that the best conflict resolution mechanism does not include acts of violence.
So they shouldn’t have gone on that tangent, despite their claim to have exhausted all means within their powers to get listening ears of the school authorities to maintain the status quo they cherished.
Anyway, I’m biased on the use of violence to resolve conflicts, and will always, everywhere, and any time reject any person, group or an institution that uses violence as a mean to seek redress, or to catch the attention of the authorities.
Thereforem I add my voice to those who have been brave to condemn the actions of the students of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, whose decision has brought the image of that prestigious university into disrepute.
I am of the opinion that the Students Representative Council (SRC) President of KNUST should immediately release an apology letter, copied to all media houses, to the school authorities, the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor and all stakeholders of that revered university on behalf of the student population
This is because his led administration has conducted itself in a manner that could best be described as misplaced priority, which has featured the name of their university in the media for bad reasons.
Again, I would also be comfortable if the SRC President resigns his post based on the videotape released prior to the violent demonstration, where he was seen urging his men into action, coupled with an attempt to defend that indefensible act on television networks afterwards.
In fact, those who actively took part in that destruction on campus, as captured by both international and national media about a month ago, should bow their heads in shame.
Now, though the purpose of this write up is not to name and shame the acts of modern day students vandalism, since, in the past, some elite institutions have engaged themselves in similar activities with impunity, I have no option than to mention the students of KNUST whose wrongdoing could not be curtailed by even the television cameras.
Not even the live radio and television commentaries calling National Security on their activities could click them to stop causing damage to property on site. I see no reasons why aluminous and sections of the political divide will have to struggle to support these students.
Again, it is sad to note that these acts of vandalism have become the way students think could make them relevant, else, I do not see the motivation for students who have sign declaration forms of their respective schools to abide by rules and regulations ever think of vandalising school and other private properties, as a demand for their human rights to be respected.
Readers will agree with me that some of these student vandalism gained grounds in the 80s until 1996 thereabouts, when Sixth Form was faced out. During those periods, some schools in the country made their names, not because of their academic performances, but through acts of vandalism.
In fact, over time, such act of misconduct have been hailed by some elites just for political gain and nothing else, resulting in some elected and appointed officers removed from posts, just as the one that nearly befall Prof. Obiri Danso of KNUST.
As far as my memory serves me right, with the expectation of few, all alma mater of secondary school level were ‘big’ names, based on how seniors bullied juniors, throwing stones at lecturers and stealing of their fowls, garden products, and orange in the farms near by the schools. Even that was just for the fun of it, with no aggressive intentions attached, as students whose parents have visited and left them some pocket money wanted to jump walls to eat fufu, found every reason to accuse the Matron’s food for that day being contaminated with the last two semesters’ corn dough for the kenkey, though when we had no money we rushed to take dining seats when that same kenkey was on fire.
The one I’s seeing these days involving the destruction of vehicles belonging to lecturers is becoming too much and unacceptable.
I should be right to say that the example of KNUST influenced students of a secondary school in Volta North to destroy school properties just because the authorities had taken their mobile phones they were unlawfully keeping in their dormitories, and charging same through illegal electricity connections, which we all know the dangers involved in doing so. That well intent and purpose decision to save students from being electrocuted, and to get them to concentrate on their books to pass their exams, was met with a chase of the originating teacher of the idea from his bungalow.
There was also one such act of vandalism in one of the Ashanti-Akyem North schools against the authorities because water was a problem.
Certainly, we can’t support this as a country whose President is doing everything possible to make education accessible to all, with the intention of developing the human resource capital of its people. I, therefore, recommend never again should such a bad practice of students go unpunished.
Having dealt with the bad example, let me take this opportunity to commend the All Nations University in Koforidua and Mamfe Methodist Girls Senior High School in Akuapem for not following the bad examples, but, instead, adopted actions that have raised the image of Ghana high in the international scenes for their ground-breaking researches in the sciences.
To student’s leadership of the universities, you could become relevant if you follow the suit of All Nations University in Koforidua in the Eastern Region, which did not take arms against their school authorities for not providing them ‘all male hotels’, but shared the ‘mixed verandas’ with female partners, and made use of their lecturers directives that resulted in the ground-breaking innovation in the field of space satellites.
Let me use this opportunity to thank the lecturers of KNUST who resisted any attempt to sacrifice the Vice Chancellor, in particular, to pacify the students, who have gone wrong and must be told in plain language, or better still, dismissed for those mass actions of destruction, estimated to have cost over GH¢2 billion.
Actually, my thumbs up for the lecturers for showing to the students what they ought to have done by embarking on a peaceful demonstration to register their protest against the decision to take the Vice Chancellor off based on the actions of the students.
Again, all other universities in Ghana may take a look at the basis for their establishment, and demand same from their authorities to increase teaching and learning materials to help them come out with workable research innovations to help build the nation, instead of using violent demonstrations to announce their presence.